Audrey Barnes, left, and Karla Gauger talk about their growing jewelry business, Can Dangle. The mother and daughter team have received a positive response in the area since beginning the business. They sell their jewelry, which is made primarily of recycled aluminum cans, at local shops, at the Madison Farmers Market and at regional art shows. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
Audrey Barnes, left, and Karla Gauger talk about their growing jewelry business, Can Dangle. The mother and daughter team have received a positive response in the area since beginning the business. They sell their jewelry, which is made primarily of recycled aluminum cans, at local shops, at the Madison Farmers Market and at regional art shows. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
A search for a cupcake book led to a new business venture for a mother and daughter just looking to decorate during special occasions for their families.

Karla Gauger and Audrey Barnes were looking for a cupcake decoration book that Gauger saw in a store when they found a book full of colorful jewelry creations instead. The two never considered making jewelry until they discovered the book of items made from aluminum.

"It was a long way from cupcakes," Gauger said.

The two began trying to make the items from the book in January, starting with dangle earrings made from the sides of aluminum cans. A business they named Can Dangle blossomed from there.

Once they began focusing on their project, Gauger took a class that taught skills and how to use certain tools to make jewelry. As time went on, the number of their creations expanded along with their expertise. Both said they used to get cuts and scrapes, but finding the right equipment has helped to cut down on the small injuries.

"We thought we were going to have to buy stock in Band-Aids for a while," Barnes said.

With time, the jewelry makers began experimenting with ideas from earrings to hair clips, necklaces and bracelets, expanding their selection of items with their growing business.

Some of their designs come from ideas they try out of the book or take suggestions from family or friends. A few of the ideas don't worked out the way they imagined, but most tries at something new are successes, they said. As with anything creative, each idea for Can Dangle comes with a bit of trial and error.

"You know, we haven't used the book in a really long time," Gauger said.

Each piece is one of a kind, Barnes said. The lettering and colors on the cans are used for designs and each cut on the can is different. Sometimes the two jewelers put scraps together to see what they can come up with from what they have left over of the aluminum. From tiny earrings to larger necklaces, each creation can be purchased in a variety of colors, and they have their merchandise for sale at many local businesses and festivals.

"We've tried to make it reasonable for everyone," Barnes said. "We try to appeal to everyone."

While Gauger usually cuts the shapes from the sheets of aluminum and matches the colors, Barnes is the one to secure the items together.

"This is a partnership," Gauger said.

Both agree the business gives mother and daughter a time to be together and discuss the day after their work at other jobs is done. Gauger, the principal at Lydia Middleton Elementary School, and Barnes, Jefferson County chief environmental food specialist, both like to spend time piecing the jewelry while talking about the week's happenings.

"I think we do a lot of laughing," Gauger said. "We love being together."

Even though mother and daughter make the creations and sell the items, Gauger's husband cuts the cans and flattens the aluminum and Barnes' husband often drinks energy drinks for the unusual can colors. Both help out whenever they have time, mother and daughter said. Other extended family members save aluminum cans for the business too, so that everyone helps out in some way.

"That's really what's fun," Barnes said. "It's truly a family affair."

While some cans come from family, other cans come from unsuspecting locations at times. Sometimes Gauger or Barnes will see an interesting can and buy it just for the aluminum, not for the beverage. On rare occasion, they find colorful aluminum cans or cans they haven't seen before that other people have discarded and pick them up to wash and use, Gauger said.

"We just started by finding cans in our trash can," Gauger said. "We haven't come across an ugly can."